Tips On Commercial Building Retrofits and When to Perform Them

There are many types of building HVAC system retrofits and they can be performed for a multitude of reasons. Some of the reasons Atlantic Westchester gets involved with a retrofit typically falls into one of the following categories:

Building modifications or building use changes

A very common situation is that building owners or managers don’t want to utilize a space the same way as when it was built. A routine example is when a school district decides to repurpose a custodial closet for a new IT server room. First off, we’d speak with the client to discuss their end goals and evaluate how much cooling capacity is required to meet the client’s needs. Additionally, we would have to analyze how to run the piping and electrical from the room we need to condition to either a new remote air-cooled condenser or connect to existing building infrastructure. Lastly, we would discuss with the client how to produce a turnkey solution and if there are any preferred vendors that will need to be involved to execute a successful retrofit.

Obsolete HVAC equipment or controls

One of our clients, a childcare center, reached out to us asking for help because they were subject to technology obsolescence. They had an obsolete building management system with no visibility to change setpoints, view space conditions or modify a schedule. Our first step was to identify the client’s needs in priority order – they needed visibility but as a non-profit we had to operate within their budget. We proposed a building management system retrofit with energy efficiency conservation measures to help develop a solution to fit their needs. Once the proposal was approved, we installed technology that could adjust the capacity of their HVAC equipment to match heating and cooling demands, thus saving energy when there was low demand and they received a utility incentive to help offset the investment.

Energy conservation measures

Clients are often trying to tighten their operating budget by investing in their existing HVAC technology, so it’s important to discuss how they operate their current system. We first gather data on the HVAC technology and controls in the building to paint a picture of how the building is currently operating. We then break down energy conservation investments into low, medium, and high-cost retrofits. We had a client who had two oversized chillers that were failing. So, we evaluated the building load profile and were able to replace with smaller capacity units, thereby providing a better match for the connected load and obtain a utility incentive for permanent reduction in energy consumption. Overall, once all options are evaluated, we discuss with the client our findings and partner with them to implement a practical energy efficient solution.

Indoor air quality concerns

The most recent concerns have been indoor air quality. The hot topics right now are what type of filtration or technology can be put inside buildings or how to clean/purify the air. We evaluate the existing equipment by seeing if the fan is designed to handle extra pressure drops by changing filters to a higher MERV rating (Minimum Efficient Reporting Value). It’s important to spend time determining whether or not the equipment can handle extra air resistance, because without the proper evaluation the equipment could operate outside of its intended condition and therefore have performance issues. Another strategy is installing Needlepoint Bi-Polar Ionization. This process treats and cleans air in the spaces where the air is flowing, thereby providing many benefits and excellent quality indoor air.

When it comes to retrofits there is not one size fits all, rather, there are many different levels of HVAC technology to support changes in building occupancy, reduce energy consumption, upgrade from obsolete equipment, or provide building occupants clean air for them to breath in.